South American Pampa has lost 16.3% of native vegetation in 20 years, shows unprecedented mapping, which covers Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay
The New MapBiomas Network platform shows the evolution of land cover and land user over 1,005,780 km² occupied by the biome - 43.2% of them covered by native vegetation
April 29, 2021 - The South American Pampa had a net loss of native vegetation of 16.3% in 20 years, between 2000 and 2019, from 519,496 km² to 434,795 km². The data was calculated by researchers from Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay have produced the most complete series of annual land cover and land use maps ever elaborated for the biome. In addition to the typical Pampa areas of the three countries, The initiative included mapping the neighboring areas of Espinhal and the region of Paraná River delta, in Argentina.
The South American Pampa covers the southern half of Rio Grande do Sul, all of Uruguay and part of Argentina, in the south of Rio de la Plata. It is a region with a very old occupation and home to three large metropolises (Buenos Aires, Montevideo and Porto Alegre).
Pampa's biodiversity is characterized by the predominance of native herbaceous vegetation, called "Campestre" vegetation (grassland). Although they are present, naturally forests occupy a smaller proportion. The region's climate varies from subtropical to temperate, with pronounced thermal seasonality (cold winters and hot summers) and without a dry season (rain occurs every month of the year).
Due to the natural supply of forage resources of the abundant countryside vegetation, beef cattle production was the characteristic economic activity of the region in the first centuries of European colonization, with a strong influence on regional customs and culture. However, since the 20th century, the biome has undergone profound transformations in land use, especially due to the advance of grain agriculture and, more recently, forestry. As a result, their ecosystems are among the least protected and most threatened on the continent.
Native vegetation now covers 43.2% of the biome's area. Most of it corresponds to the countryside vegetation, traditionally used for livestock. It is a unique case in which animal production and the conservation of biodiversity generally integrate production systems with remarkable environmental sustainability.
The Pampa has undergone significant transformations in the landscape over the past two decades. The country which had the greatest proportional loss of native vegetation was Brazil, with 21,356 km² (20% of the existing area in 2000), mainly due to the expansion of agricultural areas for soy planting.
However, Argentina suffered the greatest loss of native vegetation in absolute terms, approximately 51,242 km² (18% of the area in 2000). A variation from 291,094 km² in 2000 to 239,851 km² in 2019, also due to the expansion of agricultural areas and pastures with exotic species.
In Uruguay, there was a loss of native vegetation by 12,102 km², from 119,139 km² in 2000 to 107.03 km² in 2019. It was a slightly less pronounced drop compared to the total area in 2000: 10%, being a combined effect of the advance of agriculture and forestry.
Of the total loss of native vegetation across the region, 85% correspond to the loss of coverage of rural vegetation.
Concerning agricultural activities, the areas of agriculture and planted pastures grew 17.4%, from 427,239 km² to 501,489 km², with larger expression in Argentina and Brazil areas.
Although forestry occupies a much lower percentage than agriculture in the region, it has shown accelerated growth in the last two decades, except for Argentina. In Uruguay, there was an increase of 6,364 km2 in the period (69%). In Brazil, the increase was 3,254 km2 (212%).
With a resolution of 30 by 30 meters and 8 classes in the legend, MapBiomas Pampa Sul-Americano Collection (2000-2019) covers 1,005,780 km², of the biome that occupies 5.6% of South America. The platform can be accessed at pampa.mapbiomas.org. The MapBiomas collections are in continuous development and improvement. The South American Pampa researchers, who recently finished the debut collection, are already looking for improvements and novelties for new versions.
- The South American Pampa, including Espinhal and the Paraná Delta, occupies 5.6% (1,005,780 km²) of South America;
- The initiative considered, together with the typical areas of Pampa in the three countries, the neighboring areas of the phytogeographic province of Espinal and Paraná River Delta;
- 63% of the mapped area is located in Argentina (633,924 km²), 19% in Brazil (193,949 km²), and 18% in Uruguay (177,907 km²);
- The net loss of natural vegetation between 2000 and 2019 was: 84,701 km²;
- The areas of agriculture and planted pastures grew 17.4%, from 427,239 km² to 501,489 km²;
- The area of silviculture (named in the mapping of planted forest) increased from 13,867 km² to 23,328 km² (68% increase).
MapBiomas Pampa Trinational
MapBiomas Pampa Trinational is an initiative involving a collaborative network of experts from Argentina (National Institute of Agricultural Technology-INTA, National University of San Luis and the NGO Wildlife Foundation Argentina), Brazil (Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul and GeoKarten) and Uruguay (Faculty of Agronomy and Faculty of Sciences, University of the Republic, National Institute of Agricultural Research-INIA and Ministry of Environment). The project uses Landsat satellite images (30 x 30 meters resolution) and cloud computing through the Google Earth Engine (GEE) platform to produce annual land cover and land use maps with high technology and low cost. The initiative is part of the MapBiomas Network, started in 2015 with MapBiomas Brasil (mapbiomas.org).
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Diego de Abelleyra
Agronomy College - UdelaR